At the time, Kubrick was known for other cult classics like ‘A Clockwork Orange‘ film and 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was and still is well-regarded for his ability to adapt novels (like the two listed above) into films that audiences return to repeatedly.
The Shining Film Details
‘The Shining‘ film was released in May 1980 in the United States and later that year in the United Kingdom. It starred Jack Nicholson in the leading role of Jack Torrance, Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance, Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance, and Scatman Crothers played Dick Hallorann. The film was edited by Ray Lovejoy and produced by The Producer Circle Company, Peregrine Productions, and Hawk Films. It took in $47 million dollars at the box office over its run.
There are several versions of the film, each cutting the length down from a maximum of 146 minutes to the final 119-minute European version of the movie.
Reaction to The Shining Film
Today, ‘The Shining‘ is considered to be one of, if not the, most influential horror movies ever made. It has far out-reached its “cult classic” status, featuring on many lists of the “best movies ever made.”
Famously, many viewers have engaged in conspiracy theory-like speculation about the film. This is due to Kubrick’s intentional (or not) use of ambiguity. Many scenes feel strange and feature images that are not fully explained. The movie is rife with symbolism and inconsistencies, many of which deviate from Stephen King’s intentions in the novel.
Despite this, not everyone loved the film. In fact, upon its release, critics were torn, and perhaps, more importantly, the author of the original novel, Stephen King, expressed his disappointment in the film.
The Shining Film Theories
Since The Shining film was released in 1980, viewers from around the world have posited theories about the film’s intentions. Many of these stem from inconsistencies from scene to scene and the general ambiguity of the movie. Here are a few theories about the film’s meaning and intentions:
The Slaughter of Native Americans
Towards the beginning of the film, the manager of the hotel mentions that the building was constructed on an ancient Native American burial ground. This has inspired some viewers to interpret the film as about the genocide of Native Americans by white settlers. While explaining the hotel’s past history, the manager, Stewart Ullman, is dressed in red, white, and blue. This is something that some viewers have cited as additional evidence.
Also cited are paintings in the hotel, Jack’s reference to the ‘White Man’s Burden’ (a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling), and more.
The “Wendy Theory”
The “Wendy Theory” of ‘The Shining‘ suggests that it’s not Jack who goes insane in the hotel but Wendy. Viewers cite various inconsistencies in the film, such as a scene where Wendy and Danny are watching TV and the device is unplugged, as evidence that Wendy is herself going insane. The same viewers blame Wendy for the bruises on Danny’s neck and suggest that Wendy unfairly locked Jack in the pantry. Then, later let him out and drove him to his death.
C.I.A. Mind Control
Another popular theory about the film is that the hotel is a CIA mind-control experiment. Jack Torrance’s job, viewers suggest, is a front for the U.S. government to test out mind control techniques or record the impact of severe isolation on everyday people. The ghosts and horrific scenes that Jack and his family see are described as side effects of these experiments.
The Overlook Hotel is Hell
The shifting interior of the hotel, the bright red bathroom, the ghosts, and the overwhelming sense of dread in the film have been cited as evidence that the hotel is actually Hell itself. Jack is not the only malevolent presence in the building. Other ghosts, such as that of Delbert Grady, are present. This theory is bolstered by the photo at the end of the film showing Jack alongside the hotel’s other guests as though he has always been there. Viewers have suggested that Jack is reliving these events over and over again as punishment for his actions during his life.
The Moon Landing Theory
One of the more outlandish theories about the film is that within its scenes, Stanley Kubrick is admitting to helping to fake the moon landing. In one scene, Danny Torrance is seen wearing an Apollo 11 sweater, something that sticks out among the ambiguous imagery that fills the rest of the film. Viewers also cite the director’s choice to change “Room 217” to “Room 237” as evidence (because the moon is 237,000 miles from the Earth (approximately)).
Did Stephen King Like The Shining Film?
No, Stephen King did not like ‘The Shining‘ film, nor did he like Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance. King has been quoted as saying that the film lacks “heart.” This is due to the fact that Kubrick removed many of the critical elements of character development that made the novel so popular.
Jack’s character was altered significantly from book to film. In ‘The Shining‘ book, King crafted Jack as an extremely sympathetic character who was trying his best to be a good father. He struggled to maintain her sobriety, attempted to dote on his son, and make up for his mistakes in the past. But, in the film, his portrayal is almost entirely negative. He is immediately dismissive of his wife and son and never does anything to evoke the viewers’ sympathy.
One of the biggest changes that Kubrick made to the story is its ending. King chose to utilize his skill at foreshadowing to suggest that Jack was going to forget “something” that Danny remembered throughout the entire novel. Readers guess what this “thing” might be until it is revealed during one of the climactic scenes of a novel. Jack has forgotten to check the hotel’s boiler, something that eventually leads to the hotel blowing up, killing its new caretaker. This is replaced with a somewhat halting scene in which Jack is revealed to have frozen to death after pursuing Danny through the hedge maze.
Some other elements that Kubrick changed or removed from the novel include:
- Dick Hallorann’s death (he survives in the book)
- Removed the famous animal topiaries.
- Did not include the wasps’ nest as a symbol.
- Change of the room number (217 to 237).
- The optimistic and redeeming ending that King wrote.
- Jack’s relatability.
- Jack and Wendy’s character arcs are ignored in the film.
- Danny goes to the doctor in the novel after being stung by wasps.
Why didn’t Stephen King like The Shining film?
Stephen King stated that the film version of his famous horror novel lacked “heart.” Specifically, he did not like Kubrick’s depiction of the main character, Jack Torrance, and his decision to remove any of Jack’s better qualities.
Is there a sequel to The Shining?
Yes, Stephen King wrote ‘Doctor Sleep‘ in 2013 as a sequel to ‘The Shining‘ (it was adapted into a film in 2019). It follows Danny Torrance, now an adult, who struggles with alcoholism and his “shine.”
Is The Shining based on a true story?
No, ‘The Shining‘ is a fictional story created by writer Stephen King. But, King was inspired to write the book after spending time at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, famed for its hauntings.